SHEFFIELD Wednesday manager Gary Megson is ready to switch his sights after suffering a setback in his bid to sign Stoke City winger Ben Marshall.
The Owls have been prevented from playing Marshall in tomorrow’s FA Cup tie against West Ham United and Megson admits that negotiations have ‘not gone brilliantly’.
Marshall joined the Owls on loan last summer and has been one of the stars of the team’s push for promotion to the Championship.
However, his existing loan deal expires on January 15 and Stoke will only allow Marshall to stay on loan if he signs a new contract.
With Huddersfield Town waiting in the wings and ready to hijack the deal, the Owls may yet decide to make a permanent offer in the region of £500,000 to secure Marshall’s services.
But Megson has also revealed that he is looking at other alternatives – including Huddersfield winger Gary Roberts, who is a free agent in the summer.
“At the moment, the negotiations have not gone brilliantly and Ben hasn’t been given permission to play against West Ham because of that,” said Megson. “As it stands, Marshall will go back on January 15 unless something changes.
“Hopefully, we can still get Ben sorted but there is more than one way to skin a cat. We might be able to try and buy him. That might be an option.
“There will be nobody more pleased than me if we can get Marshy to Sheffield Wednesday whatever the circumstances,” he stressed. “If we can’t, we will have to get someone else in or one of this lot will have to see what Ben has been doing and try and replicate it.”
Unless the situation changes, Marshall will make his final appearance for the Owls in next weekend’s top-of-the-table encounter with leaders Charlton Athletic at Hillsborough.
“We have a week and things can change very quickly,” said Megson. “But we are talking about someone else’s player. He might sign a contract and go somewhere else on loan or go back into Stoke’s squad. We are not in a negotiating position and will have to be dictated to by those circumstances. I am concerned but not in terms of Ben and Stoke. We are where we are and need to try and keep our momentum.”
Megson confirmed his interest in Roberts but will be aware that Town are unlikely to do business with one of their closest rivals in the League One promotion race.
“Other people have mentioned names and we are looking all over the show,” said Megson. “I spoke with (Huddersfield manager) Lee (Clark) in the summer. It will remain private what was said but he’s a good player.”
Defender Miguel Llera is set to join the Owls on a permanent basis but misses tomorrow’s game because his loan deal from Blackpool has expired.
The Spanish centre-back has played three games on loan but was unhappy when omitted from the side.
“I am led to believe that it is now a case of dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s,” said Megson. “Miguel has done exceptionally well in the three games he has played which is why we want to keep him. He wasn’t a happy bunny when he was out of the team but I am not bothered.
“You want a squad of players who don’t cause issues for the sake of causing issues but who want to stay in the side when they get there.”
Arsenal have refused the Owls permission to play on-loan winger Sanchez Watt but Danny Batth and James Tavernier have got permission from Wolves and Newcastle United, respectively.
Megson insists that the FA Cup is not a priority for the Owls this season and is wary of possible fixture congestion caused by prolonged involvement in the competition.
Although his side are second in the League One table with 16 points from the last 21 available, he also admits that his side will need to improve in order to beat the Hammers who are second in the Championship and seeking an immediate return to the Premier League.
“In my eyes, West Ham are a Premiership team in all but name,” he said. “Just look at the money they have spent on players, and the wage bill is very high as well. They pay one of their players what we pay our whole squad! It is a ‘David versus Goliath’ and we will have to raise our game by a massive amount.”
Megson expressed firm admiration for Hammers midfielder Kevin Nolan, who was his captain when manager at Bolton.
Commenting on the finances that can be gained by a Cup run, Megson said: “We have made £130,000 for winning the last two rounds and you will be talking the thick end of £600,000 to £700,000 for getting this far. But it doesn’t mean a great deal to me because everything here is geared for the league.”
The departure of defender Mark Reynolds to Aberdeen on loan until the end of the season has freed more money for Megson to invest in new signings. Reynolds was signed by former manager Alan Irvine 12 months ago from Motherwell but struggled.
Megson is willing to allow other players to leave but admits that is easier said than done.
“People ring up all the time and we have got a few players who we would listen to offers to,” he said. “But just before Christmas two players had an opportunity to go out yet chose to sit on their backsides and not play which didn’t help much!”